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Criminal Mischief: Episode #09: The Mysterious Human Brain

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Criminal Mischief: Episode #09: The Mysterious Human Brain

The heart is easy to grasp—it’s merely plumbing. The brain? That’s a whole different animal. Understanding a bit about how it works can help you craft your fictional crime stories.

LISTEN: https://soundcloud.com/authorsontheair/criminal-mischief-the-amazing-human-brain

PAST SHOWS: http://www.dplylemd.com/criminal-mischief.html

The Mysterious Human Brain Notes:

Head Trauma (Direct, Infectious, Anoxic, Vascular)

Physical Abnormalities

Behavioral Changes

Language/Communication

Brain Lobes:

Frontal: Controls personality, emotions, intellect, judgement, problem solving, attention, organizing, social skills

Broca’s Area: Speech, writing, particularly expressing

Parietal: Controls motor and sensory functions, and helps with vision and hearing

Temporal: Language, memory, emotions, perceptions

Wernicke’s Area: Impacts speech formation and understanding

Occipital: Vision

Aphasia: Receptive and expressive 

Memory:

Short Term: Prefrontal Cortex

Long Term: Hippocampus in Temporal Lobe

Amnesia: Global Partial, Retrograde, Anterograde

LINKS:

Brain Anatomy: https://mayfieldclinic.com/pe-anatbrain.htm

Head Injury and Communication: https://www.headway.org.uk/about-brain-injury/individuals/effects-of-brain-injury/communication-problems/

Aphasia: https://www.headway.org.uk/about-brain-injury/individuals/effects-of-brain-injury/communication-problems/language-impairment-aphasia/

Hannah Jenkins Case:

Newser: http://www.newser.com/story/266094/she-woke-up-from-bike-crash-and-couldnt-speak-english.html

BBC Story: https://www.bbc.com/news/disability-45804613

Mac Fedge Case:

NBC News Story: https://www.nbcnews.com/healthmain/different-person-personality-change-often-brain-injurys-hidden-toll-8C11152322

Subdural Info:

Subdural Hematoma Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/intracranial-hematoma/symptoms-causes/syc-20356145

Personality and Behavior Changes: https://www.omicsonline.org/open-access/personality-and-behavior-changes-subsequent-to-traumatic-braininjury-a-review-of-the-literature-1522-4821-1000196.php?aid=52259

CareGiver Post: https://www.caregiver.org/coping-behavior-problems-after-head-injury

 

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Posted by on November 29, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

Criminal Mischief: Episode #08: Mood and Tone in Crime Fiction

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Criminal Mischief: Episode #08: Mood and Tone in Crime Fiction

LISTEN: https://soundcloud.com/authorsontheair/criminal-mischief-episode-07-mood-and-tone-in-crime-fiction

PAST SHOWS: http://www.dplylemd.com/criminal-mischief.html

Mood and Tone NOTES:

Setting the mood and tone in crime fiction should be done up front.

The opening passages tell the reader the type of world they are entering and what they can expect.

The opening might give character insights, setting, and the basics of the crime—and reveal the voice.

What’s the difference between mood and tone?

Tone is the author’s attitude

Mood is the atmosphere and emotion the author creates

So, tone reflects the author’s attitude while mood is how the reader feels about the story. 

Mood and Tone can be revealed through word choice, sentence structure, formal vs informal writing, point of view, objective vs subjective, rhythm, setting, action, dialog, voice—in short, all the tools of storytelling.

Like other fiction, mood and tone in crime stories runs the gamut—dark, light, noir, cozy, suspenseful, humorous, quirky, creepy, supernatural, you name it. 

Examples:

The Long Goodbye–Raymond Chandler

When I got home I mixed a stiff one and stood by the open window in the living room and sipped it and listened to the groundswell of traffic on Laurel Canyon Boulevard and looked at the glare of the big angry city hanging over the shoulder of the hills through which the boulevard had been cut. Far off the banshee wail of police or fire sirens rose and fell, never for very long completely silent. Twenty four hours a day somebody is running, somebody else is trying to catch him. Out there in the night of a thousand crimes, people were dying, being maimed, cut by flying glass, crushed against steering wheels or under heavy tires. People were being beaten, robbed, strangled, raped, and murdered. People were hungry, sick; bored, desperate with loneliness or remorse or fear, angry, cruel, feverish, shaken by sobs. A city no worse than others, a city rich and vigorous and full of pride, a city lost and beaten and full of emptiness. It all depends on where you sit and what your own private score is. I didn’t have one. I didn’t care. I finished the drink and went to bed.

Ernest Hemingway—A Clean, Well-Lighted Place

It was very late and everyone had left the cafe except an old man who sat in the shadow the leaves of the tree made against the electric light. In the day time the street was dusty, but at night the dew settled the dust and the old man liked to sit late because he was deaf and now at night it was quiet and he felt the difference.

The Concrete Blonde—Michael Connelly

The house in Silverlake was dark, its windows as empty as a dead man’s eyes. It was an old California Craftsman with a full front porch and two dormer windows set on the long slope of the roof. But no light shone behind the glass, not even from above the doorway. Instead, the house cast a foreboding darkness about it that not even the glow from the streetlight could penetrate. A man could be standing there on the porch and Bosch knew he probably wouldn’t be able to see him.

“You sure this is it?” he asked her.

“Not the house,” she said. “Behind it. The garage. Pull up so you can see down the drive.”

Bosch tapped the gas pedal and the Caprice moved forward and crossed the entrance to the driveway.

“There,” she said.

Bosch stopped the car. There was a garage behind the house with an apartment above it. Wooden staircase up the side, light over the door. Two windows, lights on inside.

“Okay,” Bosch said.

They stared at the garage for several moments. Bosch didn’t know what he expected to see. Maybe nothing. The whore’s perfume was filling the car and he rolled his window down. He didn’t know whether to trust her claim or not. The one thing he knew he couldn’t do was call for backup. He hadn’t brought a rover with him and the car was not equipped with a phone.

“What are you going to – – there he goes!” she said urgently.

Bosch had seen it, the shadow of a figure crossing behind the smaller window. The bathroom, he guessed.

“He’s in the bathroom,” she said. “That’s where I saw all the stuff.”

Bosch looked away from the window and at her.

“What stuff?”

“I, uh, checked the cabinet. You know, when I was in there. Just looking to see what he had. A girl has to be careful. And I saw all the stuff. Makeup shit. You know, mascara, lipsticks, compacts and stuff. That’s how I figured it was him. He used all that stuff to paint ‘em when he was done, you know, killing them.”

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe—Douglas Adams

In the beginning, the universe was created. This has made a lot of people angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.

In Cold Blood—Truman Capote

The village of Holcomb stands on the high wheat plains of Western Kansas, a lonesome area that other Kansans call “out there.” Some seventy miles east of the Colorado border, the countryside, with it’s hard blue skies and desert-clear air, has an atmosphere that is rather more Far West than Middle West. The local accent is barbed with a prairie twang, a ranch-hand nasalness, and the men, many of them, wear narrow frontier trousers, Stetsons, and high-heeled boots with pointed toes. The land is flat, and the views are awesomely extensive; horses, herds of cattle, and a white cluster of grain elevators rising as gracefully as Greek temples are visible long before a traveler reaches them.

……………

Until one morning in mid-November of 1959, few Americans—in fact, few Kansans—had ever heard of Holcomb. Like the waters of the river, like the motorists on the highway, and like the yellow trains streaking down the Santa Fe tracks, drama, in the shape of exceptional happenings, had never stopped there. The inhabitants of the village, numbering two hundred and seventy, were satisfied that this should be so, quite content to exist inside ordinary life—to work, to hunt, to watch television, to attend school socials, choir practice, meetings of the 4-H Club. But then, in the earliest hours of that morning in November, a Sunday morning, certain foreign sounds impinged on the normal nightly Holcomb noises— on the keening hysteria of coyotes, the dry scrape of scuttling tumbleweed, the racing, receding wail of locomotive whistles. At the time not a soul in sleeping Holcomb heard them—four shotgun blasts that, all told, ended six human lives. But afterward the townspeople, theretofore sufficiently unfearful of each other to seldom trouble to lock their doors, found fantasy re-creating them over and again— those somber explosions that stimulated fires of mistrust in the glare of which many old neighbors viewed each other strangely, and as strangers. 

Miami Purity—Vicki Hendricks

Hank was drunk and he slugged me – – it wasn’t the first time – – and I picked up the radio and caught him across the forehead with it. It was one of those big boom boxes with the cassette player and recorder, but I never figured it would kill him. We were sitting in front of the fan, listing to country music and sipping Jack Daniels – – calling each other “toots” like we both enjoyed – – and all of a sudden the whole world changed. My old man was dead. I didn’t feel like I had anything to do with it. I didn’t make that choice.

I spent a few days in jail till the law decided I wasn’t to blame. It was Hank’s long record got me out. He was known to the cops. Afterwards I went on drinking and missing that son of a bitch like hell. There were several months I don’t know what I was doin. He had a terrible mean streak, but we were good together – – specially when we got our clothes off.

At some point I woke up from a blackout and was in the hospital. I had vague memories of some asshole buying me drinks, and him on top of me in a musty smelling car. There were flashes of fist and the sound of it against my jaw, but I wasn’t sure whose fist it was – – I could’ve been mixing up another time. The nurse told me I looked like I’d been kicked, beat up so bad I was lucky to be alive. I don’t know why I believed her – – about being lucky – – but after they patched me up and dried me out for a while I was ready to give it a go. Really try to make myself a life, for the very first time. It was a big mistake.

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Run To Ground–D. P. Lyle

“I can still smell him.” Martha Foster inhaled deeply and closed her eyes.

Tim stood just inside the doorway and looked down at his wife. She sat on the edge of their son’s bed, eyes moist, chin trembling, as were the fingers that clutched the navy-blue Tommy Hilfiger sweatshirt to her chest. It had been Steven’s favorite. He had slept in it every night the first month, until Martha finally pried it away long enough to run it through the wash.

Behind her, a dozen photos of Steven lay scattered across the blue comforter. A proud Steven in his first baseball uniform. A seven-year-old Steven, grinning, upper left front tooth missing, soft freckles over his nose, buzz-cut hair, a blue swimming ribbon dangling around his neck. A playful Steven, sitting next to Martha at the backyard picnic table, face screwed into a goofy expression, smoke from the Weber BBQ rising behind them. Tim remembered the day he snapped the picture. Labor Day weekend. Just six months before that day. He squeezed back his own tears and swallowed hard.

Martha shifted her weight and twisted toward the photos. She laid the sweatshirt aside and reached out, lightly touching an image of Steven’s face. The trembling of her delicate fingers increased. She said nothing for a moment and then, “I’m taking these.”

Tim walked to where she sat and pulled her to him, her cheek nestling against his chest, her tears soaking through his tee shirt. He kissed the top of her head. 

“He’s gone,” Martha said. “Everything’s gone. Or will be.”

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Sunshine State—DP Lyle (My next Jake Longly comedic thriller—coming 5-21-19)

Here’s the deal. Ray thinks I’m a wimp. Has for years. The best I can remember it began around the time I left major league baseball. For several years, I pitched for the Texas Rangers. Could really bring the heat. A hundred miles an hour. Zip, pop. Loved that sound. Loved that the catcher would often shake his hand out after snagging one of my fastballs. That was me. Jake Longly, baseball stud. Everybody said so. Even the ESPN folks.

Not so Ray. He never actually used the word wimp. Pussy. That’s the one he preferred. Four weeks ago being his most recent assessment. 

Nicole Jamison, my current girlfriend, love interest, whatever she was, I wasn’t sure yet, had laughed. Rude, but she does love getting her shots in. Besides, she just might’ve agreed with him. Mostly. Not in bed, mind you. I’m freaking Godzilla in the sack. Really, I am. I think she would agree. In fact, just last night, if I remember correctly, there was tequila involved, she invoked God a couple of times. Or it could’ve been my echo. Lord knows I called on Him a couple of times.

Okay, I added the zilla part. So, sue me. No, wait, don’t. The best attorney in town, Walter Horton, is married to my ex-wife, Tammy the insane. He’d already done a colonoscopy on my wallet. Probably wouldn’t hesitate to encore that performance. 

So, let’s just say Nicole and I have fun.

Regardless, she and Ray conspired to enroll us in martial arts classes. Actually, some craziness based on Krav Maga and several other disciplines mixed into a soup of pain, mayhem, and considerable bodily harm. Taught by an ex-Mossad guy that Ray knew from back in the day. Ben Levitsky. Six-two, lean and muscular, the body fat of a distance runner, and no nonsense. No wonder he and Ray got along.

Ray Longly. My father. Owner of Longly Investigations. An outfit that, depending on your definition, employs Nicole. Speaking of employing, Ray has used every trick in his considerable bag of mischief to drag me into his business. But, I prefer Captain Rocky’s, my just dive-y enough bar/restaurant on the sand in Gulf Shores. I’d much rather hang out there with Pancake, who really does work for Ray. He also thinks I should sign on with Ray. Not going to happen. At least, not officially.

Seems like despite this resolve, I repeatedly get dragged into Ray’s world. And end up throwing baseballs at hitmen, or whacking alligators with baseball bats, stuff like that.

Captain Rocky’s is much safer.

 
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Posted by on November 13, 2018 in Uncategorized, Writing

 

Criminal Mischief: Episode #04: POV in Crime Fiction

 

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SHOW ARCHIVE: http://www.dplylemd.com/criminal-mischief.html

9-18-18: Criminal Mischief: Episode #04: POV in Crime Fiction Notes:

Listen to the Podcast: https://soundcloud.com/authorsontheair/criminal-mischief-episode-04-pov-in-crime-fiction

Who is telling the story?
Is he/she also the protagonist or an observer? 

Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird 

Nick in The Great Gatsby Is he/she reliable? 

How many POV characters is too few/too many?
Which characters know too little to drive the story/or know too much and might spoil the story? 

TYPES:

FIRST PERSON POV: The “I” Character

Advantages: Close tie to reader Narrator is the “Star”
Good for mysteries-reader learns as the I character does

Disadvantages: I character must be present Can lead to awkward plotting
Can’t supply suspenseful information to reader
Not good for thrillers

SECOND PERSON POV: The “You” character—very tricky to use

THIRD PERSON POV: The “He/She” Character 

SINGLE: Similar to First person except he/she is used Similar Advantages/Disadvantages as First Person 

MULTIPLE: Jumping from head to head
Allows reader to get inside several characters
Allows reader to have “Superior Knowledge”–Suspense Great for thrillers 

CLOSE: Camera in character’s head

DISTANT: Camera external and watching the action
These distances aren’t either/or but rather a continuum. The “camera” can shift along a line from far behind or above the character to inside the character’s head. 

OMNISCIENT POV: The AUTHOR as GOD
Jump from head to head at will
Can be confusing
Requires more writing skill than seems apparent 

MIX & MATCH: Can combine POVs if you are good and careful 

EXPOSITION AND POV: 

FIRST: I’m a cop. Rather a homicide investigator. Have been for many decades. Not easy decades. Not at all. I’ve lost partners to the misdeeds of others. I’ve lost my family to long hours away and the neglect that engenders. I’ve even lost my soul to alcohol and planted evidence. I’ve grown to hate the job I once loved. 

SECOND: You’re a detective. Have been for decades. You know others think that the life of a detective is fascinating and easy. That investigators are mostly out of the line of fire and come to the crime later when the who, how, and why must be discovered. That this time lag distances the investigator from the emotional impact of the crime. You know they’re wrong. 

THIRD: Mac was a homicide investigator. Had been for many decades. Early in his career, he loved the job, the deciphering of the who, what, and why. But lately, things had changed. He no longer jumped from bed in the morning, eager to attack the case, but rather rolled out slowly, hungover, depressed, no fire in his belly. God, he hated being trapped in this existence. 

OMNISCIENT: Homicide investigators are problem solvers. Puzzlers, who work to fit each evidence item into a bigger and clearer picture. Most have skills in this arena but none are immune to the effect such investigations lay on their souls. The dead and damaged, the inhumanity one person inflicts on another, the innocents who are caught in the wake of heinous crimes, each takes a toll on every detective’s mental faculties and stability. Makes cynicism a way of life. Such was the case with Mac Wilson. Less so for Amanda Sims, his partner, a rookie who was just beginning her tenure in the pressure cooker. She still believed in her fellow man. That wouldn’t last long. 

NOTE: In choosing your overall POV and POV character look for where the real story drama lies. This is true for not only the entire manuscript but also, if multiple POVs are used, for each scene. 

ELMORE LEONARD: What is the purpose of this scene and from whose POV should it be told? 

How Do You Choose the Right POV Character(s)?

Who has the most at stake/faces the greatest conflicts? Who will the reader most empathize with/worry about? Who drives the story?
Who is effected most by the story? Who is the most interesting?
Who is present/actively involved in the climax?
 

How many POV characters do you need?
If multiple, what characters enhance the plot, offer help/hindrance to the protagonist, offer a different perspective, offer needed info that increases suspense? 

EXAMPLES:

FIRST PERSON POV:

The Sun Also Rises–Ernest Hemingway 

“I could picture it. I have a rotten habit of picturing the bedroom scenes of my friends. We went out to the Cafe Napolitain to have an aperitif and watch the evening crowd on the Boulevard.”

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn–Mark Twain

You don’t know about me, without you have read a book by the name of “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” but that ain’t no matter. That book was made by Mr. Mark Twain, and he told the truth, mainly. There was things which he stretched, but mainly he told the truth. That is nothing. I never seen anybody but lied, one time or another, without it was Aunt Polly, or the widow, or maybe Mary.

The Great Gatsby–F. Scott Fitzgerald

When I came back from the East last autumn I felt that I wanted the world to be in uniform and at a sort of moral attention forever; I wanted no more riotous excursions with privileged glimpses into the human heart.

SECOND PERSON POV:

Bright Lights, Big City–Jay McInerney 

You are not the kind of guy who would be at a place like this at this time of the morning. But here you are, and you cannot say the terrain is entirely unfamiliar, although the details are fuzzy. You are at a nightclub talking to a girl with a shaved head. The club is either Heartbreak or the Lizard Lounge. All might become clear if you could just slip into the bathroom and do a little more Bolivian Marching Powder. Then again, it might not. A small voice inside you insists that this epidemic lack of clarity is a result of too much of that already.

THIRD PERSON POV:

Red Dragon–Thomas Harris 

Will Graham sat Crawford down at a picnic table between the house and the ocean and gave him a glass of iced tea.

Jack Crawford looked at the pleasant old house, salt-silvered wood in the clear light. “I should have caught you in Marathon when you got off work,” he said. “You don’t want to talk about it here.”

“I don’t want to talk about anywhere, Jack. You’ve got to talk about it, so let’s have it. Just don’t get out any pictures. If you brought pictures, leave them in the briefcase — Molly and Willy will be back soon.”

Hot Lights, Cold Steel–D. P. Lyle

This was going to be totally cool. Dead bodies. Carmelita had never seen one, much less two. Would they be gross? Smell bad? She’d heard that they smelled like rotting eggs. What if she threw up? How embarrassing. Still, she’d have a great story to tell. And a ring to show off.

She had been scheduled to work until 1:00 a.m., but this was definitely worth dumping a couple of hours. Besides, it wasn’t that busy, and the tips had been lousy. Some nights were just that way. Maybe if this had been a payday Friday, she’d have stayed, but a dead Wednesday? No contest.

OMNISCIENT POV:

The Dawn Patrol-Don Winslow 

The girls looked like ghosts.

Coming out of the early-morning mist, their silver forms emerge from a thin line of trees as the girls pad through the wet grass that edges the field. The dampness muffles their footsteps, so they approach silently, and the mist that wraps around their legs makes them look as if they’re floating. Like spirits who died as children.

There are eight of them and they are children; the oldest is fourteen, the youngest ten. They walk toward the waiting men in unconscious lockstep.

The men bend over the mist like giants over clouds, peering down into their universe. But the men aren’t giants; they’re workers, and their universe is the seemingly endless strawberry field that they do not rule, but that rules them. They’re glad for the cool mist — it will burn off soon enough and leave them to the sun’s indifferent mercy.

Black Cherry Blues–James Lee Burke

Her hair is curly and gold on the pillow, her skin white in the heat lightning that trembles beyond the pecan trees outside the bedroom window. The night is hot and breathless, the clouds painted like horsetails against the sky; a peal of thunder rumbles on the Gulf like an apple rolling around in the bottom a wooden barrel, and the first raindrops ping against the window fan. She sleeps on her side, and the sheet molds her thigh, the curve of her hip, her breast. In the flicker of the heat lightning the sun freckles on her bare shoulder look like brown flaws in sculpted marble.

Then a prizing bar splinters the front door out of the jamb, and two men burst inside the house in heavy shoes, their pump shotguns at port arms. One is a tall Haitian, the other a Latin whose hair hangs off his head in oiled ringlets. They stand at the foot of the double bed in which she sleeps alone, and do not speak. She awakes with her mouth open, her eyes wide and empty of meaning. Her face is still warm from a dream, and she cannot separate sleep from the two men who stare at her without speaking. Then she sees them looking at each other and aim their shotguns point-blank at her chest. Her eyes film and she calls out my name like a wet bubble bursting in her throat. The sheet is twisted in her hands; she holds it against her breasts as though it could protect her from twelve- gauge deer slugs and double aught buckshot.

NOTE: Could this be a first-person dream sequence? Absolutely. The phrase “she calls out my name” suggests that. Still, absent that, it’s a good example of omniscient POV.

AUTHORIAL/OMNISCIENT TO FIRST PERSON

Run To Ground—DP Lyle

The Tennessee River sagged into North Alabama like a slack guitar string, waiting to be tightened to the proper key. From its origins at the confluence of the Holston and French Broad Rivers near Knoxville, Tennessee, until it emptied into the Ohio River near Paducah, Kentucky, it covered over six hundred and fifty miles. The river was home to nine Tennessee Valley Authority hydroelectric dams, which supplied power to a large chunk of the southeast. The city of Huntsville, as well as the Redstone Arsenal/Marshall Space Flight Center, nestled against the river near the bottom of its Alabama swag.

Like most Southern cities, Huntsville was small. Though the population was around one hundred and sixty thousand and it was spread over one hundred and seventy-five square miles, you could drive fifteen minutes in any direction and be lost in rural America. No city lights. No traffic. Just fertile farmland where rabbits, squirrels, doves, and crows abounded. Land where cotton was king for so many years. Still was, though it had been joined by corn and soybeans and a handful of other food crops.

I stood at the back of my property and looked out over the city, the Redstone Arsenal, and the rolling green hills and thick patches of forest that surrounded both. The cloudless blue sky, the gentle breeze from the west, and the pink and white dogwoods that bloomed along the edge of my property offered no hint of the horrors that lay in those hills and forest patches. None of the people driving unhurriedly along Memorial Parkway could have guessed that at this very moment excavation crews were pulling body after body from the ground. Before sunset, they would know, but right now life went on as if this were just another perfect April day.

 
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Posted by on September 18, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

Feedspot’s Top 100 Crime Novel Blogs

 

The Crime Fiction Writer’s Blog checked it at #7 on Feedspot’s Top 100 Crime Novel Blogs for Crime Readers & Authors. Thanks, Feedspot.

I follow many of the blogs listed and from this list added a few more. An excellent resource for crime writers. 

The complete list: https://blog.feedspot.com/crime_novel_blogs/

 
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Posted by on September 4, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

Guest Blogger: Lisa Black: CAUTION: CHILDREN AT PLAY

My current release revolves around a series of deaths at a juvenile detention facility—and seeing as I don’t even have children of my own, this represents a world I know nothing about. Much research was in order. 

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Among many other topics, I read a book about play therapy. Playing—unfettered, unstructured running around, preferably outside, is not only vital to a child’s development but vital to understanding what is going on in their lives. Apparently, children have as much trouble just being ‘themselves’ as adults do. We all bring a suitcase full of ideas and expectations into the room with us, ideas inherited from family life and other experiences. Watching how a child functions on the playground can give great insight as to how they’re functioning in their own mind. 

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Every family assigns roles. Mom is the sensible one, while Dad is a soft touch. The oldest child is the go-getter and the middle one is the whiner. Sometimes these roles can be a good thing, providing support and encouragement, but no one wants a child to feel locked into only one way of being by the age of eight. At school, at activities, at play, a child should be able to experiment with alternative personalities, perhaps finding a better fit or at least rounding out the one they have. 

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Here are some common family roles:

The sensible child is the one that’s helpful, cheerful, mature past his/her years. They’ve been encouraged to be mummy or daddy’s little helper and that’s wonderful, as far as it goes, until they begin to feel so burdened by this role as pseudo-adult that they miss being a little kid. They may begin to withdraw from others. This child would be helped by teachers and playgroup monitors giving him no responsibilities for a while, letting him be free to simply enjoy his childhood.

Another version of the sensible child has been forced into the role of peacemaker by warring parents. At home, this child tries to soften the parents’ messages to each other and perhaps distracts them by acting out so that they focus their aggravation on the child instead of the other parent. In the schoolyard, this child can try to manage their peers’ conflicts to the point where they’re told to butt out. While they may be initially hurt, it’s important to relieve them of the weight of constantly having to solve other people’s problems. 

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Every family has one—the black sheep, the sibling who always starts the fight or never does their homework or lets the goldfish die when it’s their turn to feed it. A scapegoat, who—not coincidentally—helps out by making everyone else look good by comparison. Sometimes this is due to, again, warring parents who enlist the child in their attacks—I’m not mad, but little Timmy was so disappointed that you weren’t here, that he missed the bus and forgot his lunch. Didn’t you, Tim?

Or the opposite—children who are good at everything they do. They allow their siblings to slack off and their parents to feel great about their parenting abilities. But the praise heaped upon them can become crushing if they come to believe the slightest stumble will render them unlovable. 

Similar to the scapegoat is the troublemaker, the one who starts fights and objects to the instructions. Troublemakers usually come from families in which there is a large and hard to manage the problem and it’s much easier for everyone’s psyche to define the problem as child #whatever. The child’s peers who might occasionally feel oppositional don’t have to be, because ‘the troublemaker’ will kick up a fuss for them. They relieve the stress of those around them but need to be guided into ways to relieve their own stress. 

Children’s behavior at play can tell you what you need to know about them. We only need to look more carefully.  

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Lisa Black spent the five happiest years of her life in a morgue. As a forensic scientist at the Cuyahoga County Coroner’s Office she analyzed many forms of trace evidence as well as crime scenes. Now she’s a certified latent print examiner and CSI in Florida and is the author of thirteen traditionally published novels. Some of which have been translated into six other languages, one has been optioned for film and one reached the NYT bestseller’s list. The latest is Suffer the Children, which involves forensic scientist Maggie Gardiner and homicide detective Jack Renner in a series of deaths inside a center for violent children. 

http://www.lisa-black.com

 

 
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Posted by on August 23, 2018 in Crime Scene, Guest Blogger, Uncategorized

 

Guest Blogger: Dennis Palumbo: EROTOMANIA

EROTOMANIA: When the bad guy’s motive is a delusion

By Dennis Palumbo

Nietzsche once wrote, “There is always some madness in love. But there is also always some reason in madness.”

Perhaps. Then again, Nietzsche never met Sebastian Maddox, the villain in my latest suspense thriller, Head Wounds. It’s the fifth in my series about Daniel Rinaldi, a psychologist and trauma expert who consults with the Pittsburgh police.

What makes the brilliant, tech-savvy Maddox so relentlessly dangerous is that he’s in the grip of a rare delusion called erotomania, also known as De Clerambault’s Syndrome.

Simply put, erotomania is a disorder in which a person–in this case, Maddox–falsely believes that another person is in love with him, deeply, unconditionally, and usually secretly. The latter because this imaginary relationship must often be hidden due to some social, personal, or professional circumstances. Perhaps the object of this romantic obsession is married, or a superior at work. Sometimes it’s a famous athlete or media celebrity.

Not that these seeming roadblocks diminish the delusion. They can even provide a titillating excitement. Often, a person with erotomania believes his or her secret admirer is sending covert signals of their mutual love: wearing certain colors whenever a situation puts them together in public or doing certain gestures whose meaning is only known to the two of them. Some even believe they’re receiving telepathic messages from their imagined beloved.

What makes the delusion even more insidious is that the object of this romantic obsession, once he or she learns of it, is helpless to do anything about it. They can strenuously and repeatedly rebuff the delusional lover, denying that there’s anything going on between them, but nothing dissuades the other’s ardent devotion.

I know of one case wherein the recipient of these unwanted declarations of love was finally forced to call the police and obtain a restraining order. Even then, her obsessed lover said he understood that this action was a test of his love. A challenge from her to prove the constancy and sincerity of his feelings.

As psychoanalyst George Atwood once said of any delusion, “it’s a belief whose validity is not open to discussion.”

This is especially true of erotomania. People exhibiting its implacable symptoms can rarely be shaken from their beliefs.

Like Parsifal in his quest for the Holy Grail, nothing dissuades them from their mission.

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In Head Wounds, Sebastian Maddox’s crusade–when thwarted in his desires–turns quite deadly and requires all of Rinaldi’s resourcefulness to save someone he cares about. In real life, the treatment options for the condition are limited to a combination of therapy and medication, usually antipsychotics like pimozide. If the symptoms appear to stem from an underlying cause, such as bipolar disorder, the therapeutic approach would also involve medication, typically lithium.

What makes erotomania so intriguing as a psychological condition, and so compelling in an antagonist in a thriller, is the delusional person’s ironclad conviction–the unshakeable certainty of his or her belief.

Nonetheless, as philosopher Charles Renouvier reminds us, “Plainly speaking, there is no such thing as certainty. There are only people who are certain.”

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BIO: Formerly a Hollywood screenwriter (My Favorite Year; Welcome Back, Kotter, etc.), Dennis Palumbo is a licensed psychotherapist and author. His mystery fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery MagazineThe Strand and elsewhere, and is collected in From Crime to Crime (Tallfellow Press). His series of mystery thrillers (Mirror Image, Fever Dream, Night Terrors, Phantom Limb, and the latest, Head Wounds, all from Poisoned Pen Press), feature psychologist Daniel Rinaldi, a trauma expert who consults with the Pittsburgh Police. For more info, visit http://www.dennispalumbo.com 

 

Cancer Isn’t a Modern Disease

What is cancer? You know the term and odds are great that you know someone personally who has suffered from a member of this constellation of diseases. But what exactly is it?

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Cancer is basically a genetic disease in that something changes in the DNA inside certain cells and this, in turn, disrupts their normal functions. These changes might result in uncontrolled growth and this can cause problems simply by the tumor’s size and location. The cancerous tissues might obstruct a bowel or a bile duct, or compress brain cells and increase the pressure inside the cranium, or erode into nearby organs of blood vessels. Others changes within these cells might alter their internal workings so that they no longer function as intended or they might produce chemicals or hormones that alter the function of other cells within the body. Cancer comes in many forms.

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What causes cancer? This has been the subject of debate, as well as a tremendous amount of research, for many many years. We have some answers, but there are even more questions. We know that things such as cigarette smoking, exposure to the sun, certain chemicals, and many other things can trigger these genetic changes within cells that can lead to cancers of various types.

Medicine has made tremendous strides in our understanding of cancer and in our methods of early detection, diagnosis, and treatment. There are programs for the early detection of breast and colon cancer and newer treatment protocols have revolutionized the approach to these malignancies. The progress in leukemia and lymphoma treatment, as compared to when I was in medical school, has been nothing short of astounding. 

We often think of cancer as a modern scourge, but cancer is not a new disease. Not by a long shot. It’s been around for many centuries. Evidence for cancers have been found in Egyptian mummies and a recent report from Live Science underscores that.

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